‘A very good punch in the stomach’: Last chance to see Katina Medina Mora’s intimate production of ‘Poison’

Theater play Poison in bushwick
“Poison,” directed by Katina Medina Mora, explores grief, love, and trauma.
Photo courtesy of Unit J Loft

A new production of Lot Vekemans’ play “Poison,” directed by award-winning Mexican director Katina Medina Mora, stays in audiences’ minds for days. 

Mora — better known for her work directing some episodes of the Netflix hit “Emily in Paris” —  chose “Poison,” a play about grief, nostalgia, and the difficulty of love overcoming trauma, as her first production since she moved to New York earlier this year.

“To me, grief is a reminder of the fragility of life,” she said. “It made me question a lot of how I live. It is a learning with a very good punch in the stomach, but you start questioning, ‘How am I living my life? Am I really enjoying myself?’ You learn to not worry about stupid things and to pursue a purpose. And the sadness might never end, but you learn to live with it and hopefully, it will turn into fire.”

Starting conversations about grief has been a big part of the director’s career. After accompanying her aunt through the loss of her son, Medina Mora made the movies “Lu To” and “You Will Know What to Do with Me,” which tap into the struggle.

“I saw [Poison] the same year he died and I remember I cried which helped so much,” said Medina Mora. “I’ve always thought this play has that power.”

Katina medina mora directing Poison in bushwick
Medina Mora said the play has always felt powerful to her. Photo courtesy of Unit J Loft

Cast members Emma Ramos and Richard M. Carrillo unfold a battle of feelings between an old familiarity, resentment and the yearning for forgiveness back and forth — all with a palpable chemistry between their characters.

“Sometimes you’re with her, sometimes you’re with him and no one is more of a victim,” the director said.

The play poses a question the director said commonly revolves in her mind —”What if nothing else happens after this? If I died now, would I be happy?”

“I’ve had those several times in my life,” she said. “I call them epiphanies and they are tough moments. When I finished studying filmmaking and I  had the dream of becoming a director, I wasn’t getting any jobs. And it hit me as I was crossing a bridge, looking at the water, listening to music. The word believe came to me and now I have it tattooed.” 

The show takes place in Unit J, an art studio turned into the main actor’s home, turned into a theater. 

Unit J is a loft turned into a theater
The play is set in the waiting room of a cemetery, and is performed in an intimate space in what used to be an apartment. Photo courtesy of Unit J Loft

Medina Mora is developing two movies in the U.S. which will be her first movies in English.

“Because of the [actors’] strike, I’m not shooting anything, and so it just seemed like the perfect timing to do it, to fulfill a dream, to do theater and have a first credit here in New York,” she said. “I thought it would take a couple of years, and then suddenly it happened. Now I’m ready for more.”

Poison will run at Unit J Loft at 338 Moffat St. in Bushwick until Dec. 2. $40 tickets are available here.